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June 20, 2011

Scott Gummer: Doing What You Want to Do

Posted by Anonymous
Scott Gummer's debut novel, PARENTS BEHAVING BADLY, is a suburban satire about overzealous adults and youth sports. Scott has also authored two golfing books and contributor to over 40 magazines. As the final contribution to this year’s Father’s Day Blog, Scott shares the tale of how he got his start in writing --- and how the support of his (non-overzealous) father allowed him to do exactly what he wanted.
Photo: Scott (right) with his father. 
scott photo resized.jpgA college summer spent assembling diesel truck brakes was my dad’s greatest contribution toward my becoming an author. It was hot, grueling work, facts not lost on my father. He started on the assembly line when he was in school and worked his way all the way up the ladder. A co-owner and CEO when he retired, my dad never cashed a paycheck from another company.
Upon returning to the University of Oregon for my junior year, I never blew off another class. Shortly before graduating with a degree in journalism I asked my dad about going into the family business. I recall his response because he did not cite my lack of business and engineering qualifications, but rather he said, “It’s not what you want to do.”
I wanted to go to New York and work in advertising, and after 18 months toiling as a Madison Avenue peon I’d identified one more career that was not right for me. I hooked a gig freelance fact-checking at GQ Magazine. That led to a staff gig at LIFE Magazine, back when LIFE still mattered. That led to 20 years of writing for 40-plus magazines, which led to writing two nonfiction books, which ultimately led me to write my first novel and the place I feel I was ultimately meant to be.
I have periodically detoured from writing in search of a steady paycheck and benefits for my family, but each time I have failed quite spectacularly. In the mid-90s I spent three years as a marketing product manager with EA SPORTS; my last job review echoed my father’s sentiments about my going into the family business when my boss, still a friend, said, “This is the worst review we have ever given anyone and not fired them. Go back to writing.”
book cover resized.jpgMy dad did not influence my becoming an author so much as he modeled for me what it takes to become a success: discipline, sacrifice, integrity, ingenuity, elbow grease, a sense of humor and, most importantly, perspective. Family always came first.
My dad just turned 75. He’s slowing down. I can beat him on the golf course --- though a boxing ring might be a different story. He is a stoic Swede, not especially emotional or affectionate, but I know he takes pride in my work if only because I have signed copies of my books to everyone from his butcher to his barber.
I sense that my dad is proud of what I do not because it is unique, tangible, or high profile, but simply because I am doing precisely what I want to do.